Little Ditty, About Jack and Amanda
: Strumpette Amanda Chapel, whose view of the future of the public relations industry gets bleaker by the day, has fallen into bed with Jack O’Dwyer, a May-December romance that leads to the publication on Amanda’s site of a guest article
by the curmudgeonly commentator.
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t agree with Jack about a lot of things, and his suggestion that the Council of PR Firms is a symptom of the “European-ization” of American public relations is particularly odd.
Jack’s thesis appears to be that the Council, with 100-plus members (most of them smaller, U.S.-based independents) is in “bankrolled mostly” by Omnicom, Interpublic, WPP, Havas and Publicis—the five major communications holding companies—and that as “WPP, Publicis and Havas have dominated the Council, so to [sic] have European attitudes of secrecy” (the U.S.-owned Interpublic and Omnicom have presumably been either overpowered or outsmarted by the fiendish foreigners).
I can’t help thinking there is a little xenophobia in evidence here. These “European attitudes of secrecy” are in fact the result of Sarbanes-Oxley, an American regulation so poorly thought out that it appears to have caused a result entirely the opposite of what was intended. But beyond that, I don’t find the European PR business to be particularly secretive: there have been PR agency rankings in most of the major European markets, and in most cases local firms now complain because the American agencies withdrew from those rankings and rendered them meaningless.
Equally puzzling is Jack’s assertion that the trade press in Europe “supports” business rather than “covering” it. We could have an interesting semantic discussion about that—I wouldn’t have wasted 20 years of my life writing about PR if I didn’t support the industry, but I think being supportive of the industry requires criticism of those aspects that are misguided or unethical—but the terminology is not the point: the European media generally are much more hostile in their attitude towards business than the American media.
And finally, Jack points to Tim Dyson, head of Next Fifteen, who has continued to report financial information despite Sarbanes-Oxley. Tim, of course, is English. Next Fifteen is a British company.
Look, I’m as unhappy about the pathological secrecy of big PR agencies as Jack is. I think it hurts our business. And I’m also disappointed that the Council of PR Firms has never lived up to its potential. But to depict this as the result of “European-ization” is a strange distortion of what is, I’m afraid, an American phenomenon.